Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Can you hear me now? Uh-oh.

A couple of weeks ago, Caleb had his 3 year wellness visit at the pediatrician.  You know...the ones where they go in healthy, the doctor tells you they're fine, and two days later they come down with the plague that the child who was in the exam room before them had.  I strongly dislike these visits for said reason.  Well, you'll be happy to hear that my 3 year old is normal.  Above average actually.  But when they tested his hearing, the doctor said that she was going to send us to an audiologist.  I seriously thought the nurse had just gotten the test wrong.  After all, my kid pronounces every enormous words that hears.

So we went to the audiologist on Monday.  By God's grace, we didn't wait long, Caleb was obedient, and two of my favorite college students were at home with Ben so I could focus on Caleb.  After 15 minutes of testing, the audiologist let Caleb play with some toys while we talked.  Apparently, he has fluid in his middle ear which means he is not hearing very clearly through the liquid.  All I can think is that he must have some seriously amazing hearing behind that fluid because he can hear me whisper about ice cream three rooms away.

The answer to his issue: an appointment with an ENT and probably another set of tubes in his ears to drain the fluid.  My heart stopped.  Our insurance is changing, and if we can't schedule the surgery until after the first of the year, we'll be paying for it entirely out of pocket.  Now our insurance this year is ridiculously amazing, AND our younger son's hospital stay in March has more than met the limits.  I drove home praying, "Lord, don't let me panic; but please, please be working to allow us to take care of this before December 31st."

As I thought about the audiologist sending reports to the pediatrician, the pediatrician finally taking time to make a referral, the referral finally getting to the ENT's scheduling, and us finally getting to his office an hour and a half away; I just kept praying.  Then, come to find out from my sister who just happened to be coming over that evening, I can just call the ENT myself to set up the appointment since we have private insurance.  What??  You mean, I can bypass all the middle men who don't understand how important this is to me?  WOOHOO!!

So that's what I did yesterday.  Now our ENT has offices in a city an hour and a half away and in our city, but normally you have to wait two months for an appointment in our city.  Are you ready for this?  The scheduler gave me an appointment with the doctor I wanted IN OUR CITY tomorrow afternoon!  AMAZING!  I know I have no guarantees that we'll get in for surgery by the 31st, but I'm so encouraged.  Plus, the audiologist said she would make up her report within a week, but when I called her to explain what we were trying to do, she FAXed the report over yesterday morning!  Grace.  Pure grace.

Is everything else in my life working out quite so smoothly?  No.  I've made plenty of ridiculous choices in the last 24 hours.  Deciding to go to the grocery store in the middle of a snowstorm.  Silly.  Deciding to wear Crocs to the grocery store in the middle of a snowstorm.  Just plain ridiculous.  Deciding to push an incredibly heavy cart through 4 inches of slush in the parking lot of the grocery store while wearing Crocs.  (Okay, that last one was just funny for everyone else to watch.)  Deciding to let Ben sleep with us when he was crying last night. (Oh my word, I'm so I tired.)

So I hope as you're reading, you pick up that I'm a horrible perfectionist who is so so far from perfect. (type A+, right Misty?)  I also have children who are 100% children.  Right now Ben is going into the living room just to bother his older brother.  Then when Caleb gets upset, Ben will cry like it's Caleb's fault.  Does this sound familiar to anyone?

And if you think of it, I'd appreciate your prayers.  Doing this surgery this month would mean so much!  We know the Lord is in control and will provide for us no matter what, but I'd love to see Him work this seemingly impossible situation out.  Amen.  Now if you'll excuse me, my baby is eating Kleenex; and I should probably do something about that.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

When we unplugged ourselves...

A couple weeks ago I posted that I was doing away with morning T.V. time.  Who has this been hardest on?  Me (being completely objective, of course).  I miss the hour of silence I used to have to check email, drink coffee, and warm up to the idea that it was morning.  Who has this been best for?  Probably all of us.

We knew we'd have to trade traditions (you can't just take something away!) so we started our prayer album, which has gone surprisingly well.  Caleb runs out of his room every morning saying, "Who are we going to pray for?" rather than "I want to watch Thomas." He then flips the album, and we pray for the next person over our Cheerios.  This morning it was the Baxter/Moon families. :-)

Right now instead of being grumpy and whining for more screen time with his favorite tank engine, Caleb is playing in his room with his trains.  And every train has a different voice.  And they're fighting over which Candyland location they each are going to.  It makes me so happy.  I guess it's one way to learn conflict resolution.

Ben has become a lot more active since we're rarely sitting in one location for more than ten minutes.  He follows Brother around the house constantly and is now standing up on his own!  What an answer to prayer!

So as hard as it is for me to not just tune out for the first hour of the day, it's good.  It's right for me.  And it's keeping first things first.  Stay warm, friends.  I'm not liking the looks of this storm!  Teacher Man biked to work!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Meal Planning (Another Organization Obsession... I mean, Post)

I like knowing the future.  It makes me feel powerful.  That is even the case with meal planning.  I know I'm pathetic.  I'm just grasping for control in a chaotic blur known as my life.

When Teacher Man and I were first married, a couple from our church took us under their wing and mentored us in everything from parenting to budgeting.  A couple of weeks into our marriage, I confessed that I was frustrated by the fact that our nearest grocery store was 20 minutes away.  The wife taught me how she laid out her meal plans every two weeks so she only had to drive to the store biweekly.  Brilliant!

As a newlywed and a first-year teacher, this system worked so well for me.  I could easily anticipate our little needs and stock up two weeks of food.  As a mom now, I've adapted this system to my chaos.  Some days are just ugly.  I'm talking therapy appointment-library errand-handy man working in the house-audiologist appointment-friends over for a visit-brothers not getting along kind of day.  That was my day today.  Glad my meal was planned!  So here's what I do...

I used to use a separate meal planner, but I've discovered it's easier to use my regular calendar, planning easy meals for days with the most commitments outside of the home.  Plus, that allows me to see if we have any parties or birthdays that I need to shop for as long as I'm in the store.  I have a list of meals that I know our family likes (about 50).

Based on what I have on-hand and frozen, I choose a meal for the first day.  If I know the dish makes a lot, then I plan to use the leftovers on the following night.  If there will be a small amount of leftovers, I package them up after dinner for Teacher Man to take to work for a hot lunch.  I go day-by-day writing down meals until I know that every day will have one hot meal in the evening with either a prepared dish or leftovers.  Sometimes I redress leftovers.  Taco meat becomes a topping on a taco pizza.  Turkey gets thrown into soup.  Beef roast with veggies becomes beef vegetable soup with hot rolls.  I'm drooling right now. Hot spoon rolls are my one weakness (name that TV show!).  As I write each main dish, I write down ingredients I need on my shopping list (placed right next to my calendar).  Normally, I have a pretty good memory of what I have in my cupboards so I don't end up buying what I already have.  If you have no idea what's in your cupboards, please buy Tsh Oxenreider's bookOrganized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living
 and simplify your kitchen. and your home.  Trust me.  Everyone will be happier.

Now I'm blessed.  My husband almost never complains about our food.  Our food reviewing system goes like this: critique the recipe not the cook.  If you like it, say you'd like to see this dish more often.  If you're not digging it, say you'd be okay with only eating this dish occasionally... like once in a lifetime.  And I've promised my family not to get upset as long as they critique the recipe and not the cook who slaved away for hours to prepare a hot meal for them. (insert tear shedding here)

Okay, so now you have your dinners and your ingredients for those dinners written down. If you didn't think about side dishes, do so now.  Think about bread/grain, veggies, and fresh fruit.  Also, think about whether the troops will revolt if you forget about dessert.  Take a moment to put a couple special desserts in the weeks.  Your crew will thank you, and you'll feel better about yourself as a mom.  Have you written down all the ingredients for the sides and desserts you plugged into your calendar?  Good.

Also, do yourself a favor.  You know an emergency is going to come up so buy yourself some pasta sauce and frozen ravioli for that ugly night (or maybe a frozen pizza or two).  You know the one I'm talking about.  The one where you want hot carbs and cheese, but you might kill Betty Crocker if you have to think about opening a cookbook.  Meijer frozen pasta is on sale this week, and it's yummy!  Just sayin'.

Lastly, I think about breakfast and lunch.  Lunch around here is normally sandwiches (meat, cheese, PB, bread, lettuce), yogurt, fruit, carrots or celery, and applesauce.  I check my staples and add any extras to the list.  I buy an obscene amount of bread at Aldi.  Their wide-pan bread is only $1.69/loaf and is so filling.  I once saw a demonstration as a home economics teacher squeezed all the air out of a loaf of "normal" store-bought bread.  There was nothing left!  It was all air!  Now...I'm raising men.  Men need really manly bread.  Or at least that's what they tell me.  So we spring for the bread that has some extra bulk to it since I don't feel up to making all of our bread from scratch.  I'm just not there yet, Katie.  Let me get both boys potty-trained.  So anyways, I freeze at least four loaves of bread to get us through two weeks, plus the one in the cupboard.

Also, breakfast tends to be simple. Pancakes, toast, cereal, bananas, oatmeal, juice, milk, and coffee.  Heaven help us all if I forget the coffee... or the pumpkin spice creamer. I am not blessed with perkiness in the morning. After inventorying these essentials, I add any necessary items for breakfast and lunch to my list.  This is the time to look at your baking goods, toiletries, and household items to see what needs to be refilled.

Here's where the money savings come in.  Now I go to my computer and look at the sale bills (normally for Meijer and maybe Marsh).  Anything at an extraordinary price, I buy in bulk.  Normally these items include chicken breasts (which I trim and freeze with 3 in a bag), frozen foods, and household items. Don't feel bad for spending a bit extra on one trip if it means that the next trip will be super low! These items will become the basis for your next two weeks of meals. We had the opportunity to buy a ton of family farm-raised 90/10 ground beef at $2/ lb. Needless to say, I have a freezer full of ground beef right now.  Did I hate seeing that amount come out of my food budget? Yes.  Are my bills lower now that we don't have to buy hamburger?  Absolutely.

So simplified: Write down needed ingredients as you plan for
  • Dinner
  • Lunch
  • Breakfast
Then write down things that you'll need for 
  • Cleaning your house
  • Cleaning yourself and your babies (include diapers and wipes here)
  • Gifts or special events
Then check the sale bills and write down things that you'll use that are at an extraordinary price. 

Now make yourself a friend.  I mean a really good friend.  One that loves you and loves your littles.  Now leave your littles at her house. (See! I told you she needed to be a really good friend!) And go to the store and fill your cart to the top so that trips to the store don't have to interrupt your life for the next two weeks.  One time, I took both boys (Caleb in the cart seat and Ben in a Bumbo seat in the cart), and I literally considered stacking cereal boxes on top of Ben's head... just for a moment.  THAT is how serious I am about getting my shopping DONE.  My poor children.  For those of you who were concerned, no, I didn't actually put the boxes on his head. For those of you who know Ben, you know he would just giggle and chew on the boxes.

Also, I have given myself permission to only go to two stores every two weeks.  Normally this means I go to Aldi and get things at a good price that aren't at an amazing price at Meijer.  I have also given myself permission to run across to the store (we now live next door to the grocery) after a week has gone by to get more fresh fruit.  I wouldn't want to get scurvy, would you?  It sounds terrible.  Other than that, I try to steer clear of the grocery store.  If I'm there, I spend money.  If I'm not there, I get to keep the money.  And if I'm planning for what we'll eat, I've saving money by buying wisely... I'm also feeling pretty powerful, but I think I mentioned that before.

If that seems like a lot, I'm sorry.  It takes me about 45 minutes to get this all put together (and to grab appropriate coupons) and 1-2.5 hours to do all the shopping. But think of all I save!  Time loading and unloading children, energy charging through the store to grab last minute ingredients for supper, money spent on convenience foods or even fast food.  These savings (and the awesome feeling of power) have me hooked on my system.  Hope it saves someone a few minutes that are much better spent playing Go Fish with your preschooler or snuggling on the couch with your husband.  Speaking of which, I'm off to do my dishes because the daylight hours belong to my men.  Eat well, friends!

Evaluating Traditions

Like I said before, this year is the Year of Traditions.  Our 3 year old is watching very. closely. and takes traditions very. seriously.  If you have an oldest child who is a little bit OCD, you know what I'm talking about. Teacher Man and I have spent hours talking about how the little (and the big) things we do around the holidays share our unspoken values with our children.

We've even done some online research into the history behind different decorations and cultural traditions (we know we're nerds) to figure out if we want to include them in our family culture.  And, like I've said before, I feel like we have an amazing opportunity to adjust our vision of normal (ours and then our children's) so our everyday (and holiday) practices give a clearer reflection of Christ.  

So for this Christmas, here's what that looks like. The boys will receive three gifts (like Jesus did) that we've been saving for them throughout the year.  I tend to garage/consignment sale shop throughout the year and save up treasures I know they'll enjoy.  Each boy will also receive a Compassion gift that they have chosen for a child in need. (Yes, we're choosing for Ben, probably feeding infants since food is so important to him.)

Several of our family members will receive gifts of Compassion partially funded by Caleb doing chores around the house.  We'll also be giving homemade gifts, specially crafted for our loved ones.  We've been considering our relationships with our neighbors.  I'm hoping to put something small together for them.  We appreciate the safe community we live in, and a safe community is made of safe residents. 

Another new tradition that I am especially jazzed about this year is our Jesse Tree.  Ann Voskamp has put together a family devotional that follows the lineage of Jesus, starting with Adam and ending with Christ on Christmas Day.  Because we're actually talking about this ahead of time (glory be!), I have my ornaments made. These are at the end of Ann's devotional to be printed. I glued mine on brown construction paper to give them some added oomph. I have boys.  They destroy things.  We'll be using the garlands in the family room to hang the ornaments in chronological order (did I mention that my son is not the only type-A person in the family? hehe.).

We did end up putting up the tree.  With lots of help.  The ornaments tell the story of God's grace in our family: Teacher Man's pictures from elementary school, the boys' ornaments from each year of their little lives, the picture we gave to all the guests at our wedding asking them to pray. Grace. And my boys are entranced by the lights.  "Mommy, it's so very beautiful!  It's wonderful!" Which gives us a change to talk about the Light of the world.

I'm never without my help.

Nor would I want to be.
Life would be so boring without these little hands.
And our little audience.

"It's so heavy, Momma."

"What's this thingy for?"

There are still a few more traditions that we are mulling over for our family. I guess the goal is not to get rid of all the traditional Christmas practices but to redeem each one in a distinctly Christ-honoring way.  When my children see a Christmas tree, I want them to look at the ornaments and see God's grace.  When they think about gift giving, I want them to immediately think about giving to others in need.  When we talk about the season, I want them to know that it's a special time in which we let others know how much we love them because He first loved us and sent His Son to die for us.

Back to reality, my elder son just said firmly to my younger, "That's not funny, Ben."  Which means that a not so calm response (a.k.a. a physical attack) could be moments away.  Have a blessed day of decorating and anticipating our celebration of Christ's birth!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Having trouble commenting?

Several of you have contacted me that you are having trouble commenting on the blog.  Sorry!  I've contacted Google that there's a problem.  In the meantime, this is their solution.  Hope it helps you stay better connected with other bloggers and myself!

Please try the below. It has resolved the issue for many in the forum.

1. Login to Blogger using "".
2. Do not check "Remember me".

If that does not help, try again.
1. Clear cache, cookies, and sessions (not just cache or cookies) - then restart the browser.
2. Login to Blogger using "".
3. Do not check "Remember me".

Also I've heard that Internet Explorer really doesn't like that "remember me" button.  Hopefully these two options will help.  

If this also fails, you may try some other browsers like Chrome or Firefox.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hard night

Some nights are just hard.  While the world of rapid communication means that we know things faster, sometimes it seems like bad news travels faster than good news.  When all the hurt and pain that is plaguing loved ones and acquaintances is before our eyes in an instant, how do we bear it?

I can't.  But God can.  And I'm so grateful that when we let the burdens roll off of our backs, He picks them up and carries them.  And He uses these times to remind us.

Life is short.

We are but a vapor.

Redeem the time.  Redeem the time because the days are evil.

Redeem this moment.

And this one.

And this one.

And love Me with all that you are with the days I have given to you.

Cheesy Turkey Soup

Sorry, no pictures because I had no intention of posting this.  But when four different people on FB tell you to post a recipe, it's kinder to just share it with the world.  So here it is....

This was a Taste of Home recipe passed on to me by a friend.  I've made my own changes (like adding turkey) so I'll post the Taste of Home recipe (easier) alongside mine (more fresh ingredients)

6 cups of water with 4 tsp. chicken bouilion granules (or I use leftover turkey drippings with the fat skimmed off and enough water to make 6 cups)
1 package (30 oz.) frozen southern style hash brown potatoes
1 package (16 oz.) California style frozen veggies (or I use 2 heads of fresh broccoli and 1 medium carrot, chopped)
2 cups turkey, chopped (whatever pieces you want)
1 lb. Velveeta (or processed cheese)... can't help it, I love Velveeta.
2 cans (10.75 oz) cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk (I never add this.)

1. Stir your bouilion into water or use your drippings to make 6 cups in a large Dutch oven.
2. Add frozen veggies or fresh veggies and allow to simmer (with lid on) until soft.
3. Add frozen potatoes now if you were using fresh veggies. Otherwise, just throw all the frozen stuff in at once.  Simmer for 10 minutes or until thawed.
4 Add turkey.
5. Stir in cheese and cans of soup.  Stir until cheese in melted.
6. Serve immediately or keep in crockpot on keep warm setting.

Enjoy!  It's delicious and freezes super well (up to 3 months)

We Gathered Together

It's been chaos around our house for the last few days.  We made a 2.5 hour trip up to Great Grandma's (Gigi's) house to celebrate God's goodness with extended family from far away.  
This was on the way there.  (If we had taken a picture on the way back, it would not be this peaceful.  They cried the whole way home.  My nerves are shot.)
We also stopped at McD's for the benefit of our big boy who we now have to make restroom stops for.  Plus, they have $1 small specialty coffee drinks for the next couple weeks. Two mochas for exhausted parents + one orange drink for the big boy= happiness the rest of the way to Gigi's house.
Is it just me or did he become a man overnight?  Where's my cute little pudgy boy?  I want him back!!!!

The boys played with toys made by their great grandfather,

got to know extended family from Kentucky,

Skyped with family that could not be at our gathering (including Grandma Pam!),

and ate (mostly crackers). 

Have I ever mentioned how much my children's eating habits bug me?  Anyways...

It was a lovely day of giving thanks (until the drive home at least). 

Then yesterday, Teacher Man's family came over here to celebrate.  I'll upload more pictures later for the benefit of Grandma Pam, who is very much missed.  All that to say, I've been too busy to blog about all our Christmas ideas around here, but there's been a lot going on!  Stay tuned and have a restful Sunday!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Decoration or Dinner

Pumpkins are really the only autumn decoration around my house (besides my fall dish towels) because I hate storing seasonal things.  Don't get me wrong.  I love going into a home beautifully decorated in fall colors, but at this stage of my life I just don't have the time or the storage to redecorate four times a year.

We got a pie pumpkin at an orchard early in October and then were gifted two more at a fall party.  And I killed them all today.  Sorry, vegetarians. If you've never made your own pumpkin puree, there is no reason for me to tell you how.  The Pioneer Woman did an amazing job of giving photo-illustrated instructions.  There's just one significant difference in my house... I'm not allowed to do anything alone.

I mean it.  All you moms know what I'm talking about.  Even that 10-minute shower is interrupted by questions about why Grandma is sick and when she's getting better and when she'll visit.  You know, sometimes I feel like I'm playing second-fiddle to my mom.  Oh well.  I think she's amazing too. I understand my son's obsession. Back to the pumpkin!

"Can I help you?" is one of the most frequently heard questions around here.  So up on a chair he went.

For those of you who are horrified that I allowed my 3 year old near a food processor, have no fear.  There is a safety feature which does not allow it to turn on unless the lid is latched in place.  Plus, I'd rather he learned about appliance safety when I'm around rather than when he decides to try being the Iron Chef when he's 9.  I know that day is coming.

His helping quickly became a reading lesson.  He sounded out "on" and "off" and was rewarded by being able to use his knowledge to puree the pumpkin all by himself.  Yep.  I didn't do anything.  Just ask him.

Then everyone's favorite part: putting the puree in plastic bags one cup at a time (which meant we had to have a long conversation about why we have a measurement system) and squishing it flat.  It feels awesome!  I didn't want to freeze these bags.  I wanted to keep them out to play with.

I almost didn't let him help.  That would have been a crime.  

He then helped me sound out the word "pumpkin" cause ya know Mommy needs some spelling help.  Then we had a conversation about dates and calendars as we marked each bag.

And as I was doing all these things with my firstborn, I had the awesome realization that life really is a classroom.  Caleb had a blast and told everyone who came in our door that we were having pumpkin for dinner (which we weren't), but he was also introduced to basic measurement, reading, spelling, and safety principles.  Even more than just learning a few life skills, it made me happy that in a world of waste we were using what had been given to us.  In this world of hunger, we saved a few dollars (better spent elsewhere) on pumpkin by using our decorations to make 7 cups of pumpkin puree. 

I feel like Maria Von Trapp.  I'm going to go make curtains from my kids' clothes.  Just kidding.

But seriously, I think this is the beginning of looking for ways to re-purpose what we already have to meet our needs so that we can use our resources to meet the needs of others.  Make sense?  I hope so.  And if you don't want your leftover pie pumpkins (the small ones), bring 'em over here!  If we're really friends, you know I can never get enough pumpkin. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

All I Want for Christmas

Not gonna lie. I have an Amazon Wish List just like everyone else.  There is a long list of books, gadgets, and material items that I would love to have.  When extra money comes into our house, I think about what I can get from my wish list.  Being a saver/miser, I normally don't spend a blessed thing.  But as Christmas comes closer, I start to think about my wish list more.

This is the Tradition Year for us as a family.  We now have a three year old who is very aware of his surroundings and delights in tradition and routine, which makes me think. Any traditions and practices that we start now will always be "normal" to him.  Do you ever have the desire to redefine "normal"?  What if our traditions reflected less of our culture and more of Christ?  What if our family life and routines were so distinctively different that we radiated the love of Christ to all who came into our home or met our children?  What if we become radically in love with the things God loves and use our time, energy, and resources for the Kingdom?  What if....

What if my children love others more than things and learn to start browsing the Compassion and World Vision gift catalogs in November so they can choose what they give on Christmas morning to children in poverty?  What if the department store catalogs made my children sad rather than greedy?  What if my husband and I forgo what we would normally do for our children and instead bless others in their names?  Pretty sure someone out there is yelling that I'm sucking all the fun out of Christmas.  But what is Christmas?  The celebration of the Greatest Gift.  We've been given freedom, salvation, sonship, power, grace, mercy, justification, redemption, eternity!  Our response: give as it has been given to you.

True religion is this: to care for widows and orphans in their distress.

Be kind and compassionate to one another.

Bear one another's burdens.

Love one another as I have loved you.

If I lived as Christ commands me to, how would our family celebrate Christmas?  What would we give to others?  What would we give to one another?  How would we explain the lights, decorations and hype to our children?  And what traditions will we begin right now?

Today, Caleb and I (and Ben wanted to see too) went to Compassion International's catalog and chose Christmas presents that he thought that we should give in loved ones' names to children in poverty.  Man, that kid is generous with our money.  Humbling.  Because he knows that if we don't share what God gives us, we lose it.  And he believes that with all his three-year-old heart.

Gifts of Compassion - Heath Family Testimony from Compassion International on Vimeo.

Compassion uses donor's gifts of clean water, cows, chickens, vaccinations, birthing attendants, or formula to feed a sweet babe to meet the needs of the poorest of the poor.  In return, you can print, email, or mail a card  to the person you are making the gift on behalf of.

I cried when I read the information about feeding an infant for a month.  It costs $20.  Now $20 in our single-income family is a pretty big deal, but to some mothers who are HIV positive and cannot breastfeed, cannot afford to keep their precious gift alive, it is life and breath.  It is minutes in their child's life.

And all I can see is this.

And He's broken my heart again.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in....I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:35, 40

I hope if you're reading this, you're a friend who knows that I'm sharing my journey, not judging yours.  And of all sinners, I'm the one wearing the neon pink "Boy, am I a mess" T-shirt.  But a blog is a platform to allow others to walk alongside us a we grow.  And maybe, just maybe, it's a way to get the word out.  That one more child can be fed.  That one more child can be healthy. That one more child can hear the Gospel of Christ.  'Nuf said.  And thanks for reading.

Live Simply So Others May Simply Live

Do you ever feel, I mean physically feel, God changing your heart?  These past few days as I read the posts from the bloggers who went to Ecuador with Compassion, as I reflect on the holiday season, as I evaluate practices in our daily life, this phrase keeps coming to mind and bringing tears to my eyes.  Live simply so others may simply live.  Does that give you goosebumps?  I write this with tears in my eyes from my warm home with ample clean water and abundant food.  I write this as my toes warm by the heater vent and my children rest safely on clean sheets in their own rooms.  I write this with a heart filled with gratitude for what we have and eyes that have been reminded of the truth of the word "necessity."

I can't ignore it any more.  I can't live as if their lives don't matter when I have the power to do something about it.  Not only do something, but teach my children to love the poor for the rest of their lives.

This day will probably end up being multiple blog posts because each of our completely unrelated activities today has ended up being so related.  It's absolutely Masterful the way that the mundane has served to remind me of God's call: true religion is this to care for widows and orphans in their distress.

There are at least two practical out-workings that we feel God calling us to as a family.  Lord-willing, I'll have more time later to share.  So so grateful for the Lord breaking my heart with the things that crush His.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My White Elephant Idea

So I think White Elephants are hilarious.  I normally put little or no money into them so I don't feel bad throwing away what I get out of the exchange.  I just find the game of opening, stealing, swapping, and laughing to be... well, awesome.  My MOPS group has done ornament exchanges White-Elephant style.  But... what if we wanted it to be useful, funny, AND cheap?

So here's my idea: Eating White Elephant.  How about each person brings a recipe and a non-perishable item that goes into that recipe (no more than $5)?  Bring a dessert recipe and a bag of chocolate chips, bring a soup recipe and a can of tomatoes, bring a main dish recipe and a jar of seasoning.... whatever is in your cupboard that is non-perishable and goes into that recipe!  Let the recipe exchanging/stealing/laughing begin!

I'm feeling pretty original with this idea.  Maybe someone else has done it, but I've never heard of it.  I'll let you know how it turns out though cause I talked the MOPS leaders into this for our Christmas party. So excited to see what I end up with!  :-)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Homeschooling Preschool

Heaven help me.  I really like being a teacher. and being organized.  This book is dangerous for me.  I started using some of the lesson ideas with Caleb when he was two.  I told you.  Dangerous.

Ann Ward does a fabulous job giving detailed weekly lesson plans for preschool (can be made more advanced for kindergarten) that require very few purchased materials. In fact, the subtitle of this book is "A Christian Parents' Guide with Day-by-Day Lesson Plans Using the Library as a Resource."  Using the library?  We're all over that.  Especially since it's free. Each week has four days of "lessons" which should require about two hours per day.  The fifth day is always a hands-on field trip to reinforce the lessons of the week.
(This is Ben's "warrior face." Bahaha!!!)

Wait a minute!  Reading real books and then reinforcing them with life experiences?  That's how kids learn.  Hmmm..  So I'm getting more serious about preschool.  I know most of my littles' education is experiential right now.  Reading books with mommy.  Playing with blocks and trains.  Learning to share with brother (Heaven, help me.  For real.).  But to the extent that this resource gives us ideas about topics to explore or activities to try, I'm all for it!  On Friday, we played ball (a squishy, soft ball) in the house and practiced catching and throwing.  We played with a felt board (which I forgot I had), talking about top, bottom, and middle.  We talked about the First Thanksgiving since today was my family's feast and get-together.  And Caleb learned my phone number to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" in case he needs it in an emergency.

Would I have thought to do all these things?  Nope.  Do each of them have value?  Yep.  Did it take a long time?  Not at all!  And I refuse to be a slave to a curriculum at this point in Caleb's education.  I won't feel bad not doing our unorganized preschool for days on end, but this Learning at Home is at least giving me some ideas of how to encourage learning and development when we have our at-home days.

Of course, I know the best education is found in books.  Read. Read. Read.  But this resource gives excellent recommendations (some I'm familiar with from my teaching days and others I can't wait to explore) so we have something to look for at the library besides a new Thomas book.  Yes, the Thomas books are in the picture books under "THO" for Thomas.  Please find them and check them all out so we can't.  Thank you.

Did I get you curious?  Not sure this is even in print anymore, but thank goodness for Amazon cause you can still get it used.  Great resource.  If you're nice to me, I'll let you come over and look through my copy.  If you don't feel up to niceties, you can buy one here:

So I guess that answers the homeschooling question I get (seriously) a minimum of four times each week.  Yes, we're homeschooling.  We have been since birth.  Not sure we'll do this forever, but pretty sure that watching my guys discover new things is one of the greatest joys of my life.  Can't wait to see what discoveries tomorrow will bring!

My $1.50 Turkey

Yep.  I'm pretty proud.  First of all, I'm not an extreme coupon girl.  I use coupons because family gives them to me or they pop out of that awesome machine at the Meijer checkout.  I don't feel like I have time to make more of an investment in coupons, but today the stars (and the sales) aligned with my coupons and gave me some great deals!

I had a ton of buy 1, get 1 deals in my cart as well as a few sale/coupon items which made me feel like such a big girl.  But the best of all was my turkey deal.  If you bought $20 in groceries (how can you NOT?), you could get $16 off a 16 lb or greater tom turkey.  Plus, I had a coupon for $3.50 off Meijer food purchases so I got a Meijer brand turkey and a few other Meijer brand items.  Why not?  They're cheaper anyways!  Then I had a $1 off coupon for frozen foods.  Guess what??  Turkeys are frozen!  That counts!  My turkey should have been $22, but 22-16-3.50-1.00= (drumroll, please) $1.50.  My 17 lb. bird will be feeding our family for a LONG time.  We'll make cheesy turkey soup, turkey and dressing casserole, turkey bacon wraps. Oh, deliciousness!

So I'm on a high.  A coupon/deals/money-in-my-pocket high.  I probably won't come off this high until... well, I'm not sure when.  Have a great night.... and run over to Meijer if you still can!

Friday, November 18, 2011

I lost my baby...

I lost Ben.  I looked all over our family areas before I realized he had gone back to the nursery.

Something very special had been left behind after his nap.

Now it's all better.  Reunited. and it feels so good.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Family Update

Teacher Man: Healthy, but sleep deprived
Me: Almost healed from an ear infection, but sleep deprived
Caleb: Healthy, not sleep deprived at. all. (help.)
Benjamin: Double ear infection, fever, sinus infection, sleep deprived, cranky, possible viral infection, pathetic little bugaboo.

Prayers appreciated.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Making a New Friend

My 13-month-old son just found a new friend.  After months of being the only crawler around, he met this sweet little girl as her mommy and I had a highly educational talk... ahem... about blogging, discipling our children, IKEA, food, and creativity.  While we talked, they cracked us up as they "shared" a stuffed giraffe by passing him back and forth and "discovered" our picture window together.  They were precious.  And they made me smile.  And I'm still smiling now.

My baby boy discovered that there were other little ones out there like him who were just figuring out this whole walking, grunting, living thing.  And I enjoyed the fact that this little girl's mommy was encouraging me that there were other loving moms who were figuring out this whole loving, living, learning, disciplining, creating thing.  You know what makes me smile the most?  This wonderful mommy was the teacher that took over my classroom when I left teaching because I was becoming a mother, and now we've both left our classes in qualified hands so that we can teach our own little ones.

Who would've thought our kids would be playmates?  Love this so much.

I was wondering why recently I feel like I can relate to so many of the women around me, and it finally came to me.  I have jumped in, chin-deep into this crazy ocean called motherhood, embracing the reality that I'm in it with these little guys for life.  I no longer feel like Teacher Man and I are just playing house.  I'm a full-blooded, highly-dangerous mom.  I want to cultivate and create.  I want to listen and laugh.  I want to model forgiveness and silliness.  I want to give each day my best because my Lord (and my husband and children, for that matter) deserve no less.  So because I finally jumped into the mommy waters, I get to ride the waves with the other amazing women who've embraced this calling.

Together we get to share our gifts and resources (though probably not our stuffed giraffes) and discover new things since none of us have ever done this before (but we're not quite as awed by the picture window).  So this is me being grateful for community, for friendship, and for this crazy thing called motherhood.

Life is not an emergency.

Life is not an emergency.

His breathing starts to sound rattly.

Life is not an emergency.

He starts breathing rapidly like he's running though he can barely walk.

Life is not an emergency.

I remember our 3 days in the hospital last spring as my baby received oxygen to make up for what he couldn't get himself.

Life is not an emergency.

The doctor sounds concerned on the phone and stays at the office as I throw my children in the car.

Life is not an emergency.

I apologize to Baby Boy's therapist who comes in the door as we are bursting out of it.

Life is not an emergency.

Baby Boy seems so uncomfortable and sad.

Life is not an emergency.

The doctor says it's a bacterial infection, but we should call tonight if he fusses.  This could be more.  This could be the same viral infection that stole Baby's oxygen last spring.

Life is not an emergency.

And the only way I keep my mother's heart from beating out of my chest is remembering that Someone Greater is in control of even the cells in my Baby Boy's body.

Life is not an emergency. Life's a gift.  Just slow.

Just. slow.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Remember this today.

Remember this today... as you're packing up your groceries.  as you're reading the Word to your littles.  as you're listening to your favorite Christian radio.  as you're preparing dinner for your family.  as you struggle with the greatness of God.  Remember. this.

If you can't view this video, please go here.

Diary sounds an awful lot like....

I was reading Spunky's Diary by Janette Oke aloud to Caleb to help him go to sleep.  I never read them before, but I'd heard a lot of good things.  After a few pages, I turned to Caleb and asked him a question.

Me: Caleb, do you know what a diary is?
Caleb: Yeah!
Me: What is it?
Caleb: Diarrhea!!!

BAHAHA!  I've lived in Testosterone Land too long.  Even accidental potty humor is hilarious to me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mommy Sick Day

I'm dizzy. and nauseated. and achy. and I still have two children.  I can't find the Pause Button on them for the life of me.  It's been quite the day.

I don't know when I started doing this, but my husband just explained to me that I do big organizing projects whenever I get sick.  He should have expected it today.  While the kids were napping, I organized the cupboards in our garage, did four loads of laundry, sent a lot of stuff to my folk's house, and put some books away that I had purchased in September.  My garage looks amazing!  I, however, feel pretty yucky.  When Teacher Man got home after taking a meal to someone for me (yes, I cooked this afternoon too.), I said something like, "Now that you're home, I'm going to bed."  His reply, "Could you give me a second?" (because on-duty with our kids requires ALL your attention.)  My answer: "Now that you're home, I'm going to bed."

I'm awake now from a 2-hour nap and thinking about going right back down.  This is what I wanted to do all day, but my kiddos wouldn't let me.  So grateful for my husband right now who fed our kids, cleaned our kids, put our kids to bed, and is now cleaning the kitchen after a long day of school.  I love you, Teacher Man!  Thanks for being my hero tonight!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Panera's Broccoli Cheddar Soup

I complain... a lot.  about our town's lack of a Panera.  It's probably good for our budget that we don't have one.  Cinnamon crunch bagels, bread bowls, cinnamon chip scones, and that broccoli cheese soup.... I'm drooling right now.

I'm pretty skeptical about restaurant-copycat recipes.  They just don't taste the same.  However, when I saw the fat content of this "Panera" broccoli cheese soup, I knew it had to be the real deal.  Plus, I loved that it called for cheddar cheese and not Velveeta as well as fresh broccoli and carrots rather than frozen.  That's supposed to make me feel better about all the butter and cream we will be consuming in this soup.  I'm trying not to feel guilty... because my house smells amazing.

I put Caleb down for his nap, tried to get Ben to nap, failed, and then had Ben as my helper in the kitchen.

No, I did not actually use this pan for the soup; but he is so stinkin' cute.

I shredded and weighed the veggies.  Wow!  This DOES make me feel better about the whipping cream and sticks of butter I put in the soup.

I made the base according to the directions in the recipe, except I used whipping cream and milk instead of half-and-half.  It's what I had in the fridge, and I'm all about using what I have.

My very eager helper followed me everywhere.  If he weren't already nicknamed "Goat," he would be "The Shadow."

After pureeing the soup according to directions, I put it in the crockpot on low to continue softening the veggies and melting to cheese.  I forgot the nutmeg at the end.  Whoops.  Oh well.  You really can't mess up with that much butter and cream.  

My other big whoops was that as soon as I had spent most of naptime making this soup, I realized we were going to Mr. Frank and Mrs. Anna's house for dinner. (Insert palm of hand hitting forehead here.)  And we had steak there.  And it was delicious.  And I brought the soup as evidence of my imperfection.  And I laughed with Anna about it. really. hard.  

Hope some of you take advantage of broccoli being so cheap right now ($1/14oz. at Aldi) and enjoy a pot of Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup.  Just make sure that someone else isn't already making your dinner.